(2020-10-08) Troynikov Rewilding The Web

Anton Troynikov: Rewilding the Web. The web is a much duller place now than it was 20 years ago. A large part of the reason is that the early web was much more fragmented.

But as more people got online and as using the web became more mainstream and less unusual, and eventually more about interaction than one-way publishing, the fragmentation gave way to a great wave of homogenization.

Under that kind of selection pressure, power law outcomes are inevitable, and that gave rise to what we have now; almost everyone is on only a very few platforms. In order to keep users, the platforms (BigTech) have to try to please the greatest number of people, leading to boring and minimally controversial design decisions.

The platforms are aware of this dissatisfaction and have tried to adapt. The algorithmic feed was born out of the necessity of de-homogenizing what people saw, in an attemp to surface only things both relevant and interesting to each individual. But because on any given platform everyone gets the same algorithm, we now have the second order phenomenon where everyone sees whatever material is best at gaming the current iteration of the algorithm.

Alongside the dissatisfaction in the mainstream, there are those for whom the dominant medium of the platforms isn't the right kind of frontier. These people are driven as creators by thumos, a spirited sense of adventure and personal risk, who want to create something great and gain recognition and fame.

Just as we are witnessing the revolt of the public tear through legacy institutions, we are about to witness a grass-roots revolt against the platforms, for and by the people for whom homogenization isn't satisfying

The tools and infrastructure that made the web interesting in the first place never actually went away. And since then, many new tools to do this have joined them.

What these new tools offer is actually friction.

Whether monetary or reputational (as in the form of invite systems), these small tokens of commitment create just enough friction.

Through these mechanisms the contributors / subscribers / fans, now connected directly to each creator, represent a directly addressable community bound by taste on the one hand and commitment on the other. (Social Warrens)

The platforms still have a role to play. Rather than being hosts and propagators of creativity directly, their function will shift to one of surfacing and discovery.

The weird will inherit the web.

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